I’m an optimistic person. I try to see the bright side of everything; that little sliver of sun that cracks open the clouds. I never play devil’s advocate because I’m nonconfrontational. I’m a world-class buffer of human emotions and try to bring out the shiniest parts and moments in everyone and everything. It’s not to say I’m bad with advice or self-preservation, but sometimes I think I’m naive.
Case A: a little story about my how my optimism started sleeping with it’s naive counterpart.
Recently, my significant other and I were having a serious conversation about (imagine this!!!) money. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details because I have some Internet boundaries and I want to stay married for at least a month, but I can tell you one thing: conversations about money are no joke. In his practical banking mind, he saw the reality and impact of our decisions right in that moment. In my mind, I was seeing colors and positivity. “We’re going to be fine no matter what!” I exclaimed with heart eyes and figurative reaction emojis, hoping to keep him on an even emotional path (Writer’s Note: whenever it comes to optimism, keeping people feeling good is always my goal).
Anyway, not worried about the facts, I continued to repeat this and we ended the conversation with him asking me, “Do you honestly care about money at all?! This is serious. You can’t keep ignoring the reality.” To him, my positivity was too over-the-top. I was ignoring what really mattered and I wasn’t taking the moment seriously. When he pointed this out, I was truly hurt by my assumed ignorance. I pride myself on offering a light to others and I was embarrassed that maybe, my optimism made it look like I didn’t care.
Why can’t I be more practical and realistic about certain situations? Am I lying to myself when I’m looking on the bright side? Am I using optimism to ignore the fact that something bad could happen? Do I need to be “practical” for all conversations, and not allow any sense of positivity?
Which got me to wondering (hi, spirit of Carrie Bradshaw), is my optimism a weakness?
The short answer is, of course, no. Look at the title of this article. But I want to explore what it means to be truly optimistic. I want to understand why the definition of optimism, and how we view its true intentions, is powerful and meaningful.
Optimism does not have to mean ignorance. Optimism doesn’t have to be the win-all success serum either. I fear when we point fingers at positivity for being both extremes, we can lose perspective of optimism’s truth.
Let’s first start with Case A: why my optimism makes my husband want to scream at me during discussions about money.
I got one word for yah! Realism. Too much optimism, for some people, signals a blind eye from identifying and fixing some real problems in our lives. However, too much of any good thing is impractical. We have to understand what can go wrong and be able to prevent it from happening. Not much can argue that. But, don’t we need something else too? I’ll get back to that.
So, I see this side. I really do. I read the Forbes article that an overly optimistic outlook can hold us back from success. I know being overly optimistic about yourself at a job can hold you back from improving on the things you need to work on. If you google “Optimism Isn’t A Weakness” a million articles pop up: “The Negatives of Positive Thinking,” “The Dark Side of Optimism.” Pinterest is, of course, a different story. This wooey Internet crowd wants optimism to be the strength of success, the competitive advantage, the path to freedom (blah, blah, blah). Internet, why are we doing this? Optimism does not have to mean ignorance. Optimism doesn’t have to be the win-all success serum either. I fear when we point fingers at positivity for being both extremes, we can lose perspective of optimism’s truth. That truth cannot just mean we are overly confident idiots who snort magical thinking pills.
Optimism is all about balance. Above all, optimism isn’t a weakness. It isn’t a crutch or a secret ingredient to happiness or a pair of rose-colored glasses. Its counterpart doesn’t have to be deep pessimism. It doesn’t bring good luck or rainbows or, on the opposite spectrum, a life full of ignorance. A deep sense of strength and simplicity is evident if we just take a second to look at optimism differently. If we simply take a deep breath and understand positiveness for what it is:
A form of joy.
Cleo Wade says it best in her book Heart Talk, “Oftentimes, when the world feels chaotic, we begin to feel as if it is somehow inappropriate to have joy. Have your joy. Joy energizes us to take on even the most difficult circumstances.”
That’s why I choose to remain positive. Optimism is a form of joy. The way we look at the world can tell us how we’re sourcing happiness. It can tell us a lot about our willingness to move forward; our zeal. Cleo Wade says it best in her book Heart Talk, “Oftentimes, when the world feels chaotic, we begin to feel as if it is somehow inappropriate to have joy. Have your joy. Joy energizes us to take on even the most difficult circumstances. When we have joy, especially in the midst of challenging times, we are saying to the world, ‘I will define the current state of the world around me instead of allowing it to define me.’ Today, regardless of what’s happening, empower yourself by embracing your joy.”
If being optimistic is a form of joy for you, let it be.
You can do both. You can be practical and find joy. You can plan for things and analyze problems in your life and be happy. Optimism is not the counterpart of ignorance. It is not the intention to be radically problematic.
Embrace the positives. Embrace the brightness. Embrace joy. You are not better than others because of your hope source. You are not weaker, either. You are joyful and smart. And that is that.
Brittany Chaffee is an avid storyteller, professional empath, and author. On the daily, she gets paid to strategize and create content for brands. Off work hours, it’s all about a well-lit place, warm bread, and good company. She lives in St.Paul with her baby brother cats, Rami and Monkey. Follow her on Instagram, read more about her latest book, Borderline, and (most importantly) go hug your mother.
BY Brittany Chaffee - October 9, 2020
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.